Good morning, beautiful people. I stayed up quite late last night to watch the tape of Knicks-Bobcats, and when my head finally hit the pillow, I had a smile on my face. It's pretty exciting to see the Knicks hit big shots and make key stops. I'm conditioned to approach every late-game struggle with a Murphy's Law mindset, but last night and in recent games, the Knicks got the bounces, the calls, the boards-- all the little things a team needs to gain the edge when a win is in sight.
It also warms my little heart to see each Knick taking the shots you'd want him to take. Wilson Chandler led the way by always attacking 7 of his field goal makes came at the rim, and he finished 27 points on 11-21 shooting, which isn't half bad. David Lee continued to excel from outside, canning 3 of 5 jumpers, but never settling when he saw a lane to the rim. Danilo Gallinari probably could have put the ball on the floor more often, but he seemed to know something we didn't, and kept shooting right up through the fourth quarter, when he hit two critical threes, including one absolute bomb that just about iced the game (I'll say it. The Cock's got some balls). The best part, for me, was that each of those guys shared the ball beautifully. In a game with a lot of turnovers (Nate Robinson had 7. More on that in a second.), the Knick forwards made up somewhat for the sloppiness by passing crisply around the lane for open looks. Chandler had 6 assists, Lee had 5, and Gallinari had 3, and a lot of those fed chip shots at or near the rim.
As for Nate, the little guy was blatantly trying to act the part of point guard at times, but just couldn't get his passing right. His feeds were telegraphed or inaccurate, and it got to the point that Mike D'Antoni (wearing a mic) took Nate aside and said "just play your game". Robinson responded with a couple of big threes and a speedy drive and dunk that revived the Knicks after an awful third quarter. Sound passing and attentive defense (Nate's still really prone to ball-chase, and it makes everyone else have to scramble) need to be part of Nate Robinson's game, but in a pinch, his otherworldly ability to score doesn't hurt.
On the defensive end, New York went through stretches of brilliance and ineptitude. For the most part, they conceded threes, which the Bobcats hit at a solid 12-26 clip. The post defense was sound, though, as the Knicks seized a loosely-whistled game (only 18 free throws combined) and punished Bobcats who dared drive to the rim. Jonathan Bender, for his part, had 4 of the Knicks' 7 blocks.
Late-game execution, good ball movement, post defense...I don't know what to tell you guys. I fully expected the Knicks to cave in such a game of future importance, but I just might need to reevaluate my expectations. Maybe. Probably not. But maybe.
The Knicks kick off a pretty challenging road-heavy stretch Saturday night in Houston.
Last note: I was skeptical for a while, but David Lee deserves your All-Star votes. The man's offense has been so pretty I could cry, and he isn't backing down on D. Gian's got you covered right here. How can you say no to that face?